Third-year Missouri coach Kim Anderson has decided to shake things up.
Mizzou limps into its final nonconference game of the season at 7 p.m. Thursday against Lipscomb riding a three-game losing skid.
It’s pushed the Tigers’ season record below .500 and will spur a change in the starting lineup against the Bisons.
Sophomore point guard Terrence Phillips, freshman shooting guard Frankie Hughes, sophomore shooting guard Cullen VanLeer, sophomore forward Kevin Puryear and senior forward Russ Woods have started all 11 games for Mizzou this season.
Anderson wouldn’t provide details about the planned changes to the starting lineup, which he first hinted at during postgame comments after last week’s loss against Illinois, but he reiterated Wednesday during a press conference at Mizzou Arena that they’re coming.
“I really thought that that was the best five guys to start the game, not necessarily to finish the game, but to start the game,” Anderson said. “Over time, it’s proven that it’s not, so you make changes.”
Consistently slow starts during games, coupled with poor shooting and defensive lapses, prompted Anderson’s decision to try a new starting five, though he also said there’s probably too much emphasis on the starting lineup.
“I just hope we start off better, no matter what offense we’re running or what defense we’re running,” Anderson said. “The biggest thing this team needs is to see some shots go through the basket early in the game. Then, maybe that will be contagious.”
Additional changes are planned as the Tigers, 5-6, try to snap out of a season-long offensive funk that has left Anderson’s squad as one of fewer than 50 NCAA Division I teams currently shooting below 40 percent overall.
Mizzou will ditch its perimeter-oriented approach on offense for an inside-out attack.
“Obviously, we struggle to score points and we need to try to figure out a way where we can get not only better shots but we need to make shots,” Anderson said. “I don’t think that’s any big secret. … We need to go inside more.”
Puryear scored 17 points with nine rebounds in the Tigers’ 75-66 loss to the Fighting Illini last week, while Woods has scored at least six points in seven straight games and also has at least four rebounds in seven of the last eight games.
“Clearly, we haven’t put the ball in the basket like we want to, so I think coach Anderson is trying to find a different approach,” Puryear said. “With the way me and Russ have been playing, I think we have the potential to produce at a high level offensively and still get everybody involved on the perimeter as well within the offense.”
Mizzou is willing to try anything to get back in the win column right now.
“As any coach would after losing three in a row, he’s looking for different solutions and we’re going to follow his lead,” Puryear said. “Calling on other guys might increase the level of play and I’m excited to see how things pan out.”
Christmas provided a nice break — the first since June for the team, which spent a chunk of August on an international tour of Italy — and there’s hope it will re-energize the Tigers and reinvigorate confidence.
“I went home and told my mom, ‘I don’t want to talk about basketball and I don’t want to think about basketball,’ ” Phillips said. “It was nice to be home, get a break and just get away.”